Lasallian participation in the University Student Government (USG) has no doubt hit an all-time low this academic year, with the recently held 2015 General Elections (GE) hitting just a 35.90 percent voter turnout and the 2014 USG Constitution Plebiscite garnering votes from just 8.49 percent of the student body. These figures are strikingly low compared to those of the 2013 and 2014 USG GEs, which had 72.73 percent and 62.05 percent voter turnouts, respectively.
As of press time, the future of the USG is still on shaky ground, as only six positions have thus far been filled after the GE. Furthermore, last April 15, the Special Elections slated to occur before the end of the third term of the current academic year was declared unconstitutional, further delaying efforts in refilling posts in the student government, albeit not unjustly so.
Due to student democracy failing to perform its usual course, there is a struggle to understand why these things have happened. As the dust clears on the mess that has become of this year’s GE, there is a need to gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind these failures, in order to better formulate solutions not just for succeeding GEs, but for all future endeavors of the student body in general.
Much of the discussion regarding the goings-on of the USG and the GE has revolved around student apathy. Indeed, those two words have been thrown around consistently year in and year out, and has long since been named the culprit behind many of the problems experienced by the student body.
On the other hand, recent events have opened an opportunity for many students to voice their concerns against the USG, with many criticizing their leaders and the manner by which they are put into office. The disqualification of more than half of the candidates in the recent GE and the subsequent failure of elections have been followed by an influx of scrutiny from everyday students, particularly on social media. And while these comments range from the unpleasant to the defensive to the outright furious, their existence is proof against the supposed apathy of the student body.
As students, alumni, and members of the University voice out their frustrations with the USG or the GE in different social media platforms, what remains to be seen is the supposed action that follows through with these valid outbursts. What is evident now is that students care enough to be angered by these issues, but do not care enough to do more besides.
With all the changes the University is set to face in the coming academic year, the USG should be gearing up to manage the adjustments needed and plan for the year ahead. However, recent events have made it plain that we are far from that goal.
The USG we have today does not live up to the USG envisioned and established back in 2003, and the looming threat of having no student representation in the first ASEAN-based academic year grows with every day that passes and the apparent widespread inability to act on what is preached.
If we, as the student body, are vigilant and relentless in voicing out our concerns when it comes to the GE and the USG, what we must first do is to actually involve ourselves in these matters as we speak up. It is for the best that our words actually translate into action in order to inspire change and development within the University.
Despite the numerous criticisms received in the past few months, the USG is still a vital cog in representing student concerns and welfare in the administration. In the Special Elections next year, it is important to remember that the pursuit of good student representation does not lie solely in the hands of one organization. This is not just in the hands of the USG, but should be a collective effort united not in officership or membership in the USG, but in the common goal of student welfare, regardless of which party is running or who wants to be a bonafide student leader in a year full of change.